2024 hsca enhancing academics

Enhancing academics with HCSA

From engaging students throughout the school day to growing the game in their community, Hockey Canada Skills Academies contribute to a unique experience for students

Katie Brickman
February 22, 2024

Creating an opportunity where students can learn new skills, build confidence and create lasting relationships is what educators like Shaune Beatty and Brett Cameron strive for in and out of the classroom.

Having the Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) available at their schools has been impactful for their students.

“The HCSA brings a lot of different opportunities for the students,” says Beatty, superintendent of school operations and supervisor of the HCSA for the Good Spirit School Division in Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

Good Spirit brought the skills academy to its schools to encourage a new culture, bring in new students and grow the game in its communities. The HCSA has been in Yorkton for four years now.

“Some of our academies have seven kids, including a few who have never played the game before,” Beatty says. “Some classes have even done equipment drives to help make the game more accessible and promote the growth of the game.”

Over 120 students across seven schools in Yorkton participate in the HCSA. For many, it allows students to engage with academics in a way that interests them.

“The feedback I’ve received is around the whole idea of engagement—the kids look forward to going to school and it breaks up the day,” Beatty says. “It’s about engagement at a different level outside of the classroom that the kids tell me they enjoy the most.”

The objective of the HCSA program is to enhance academic achievement through a balance of academics and athletics, while also improving their hockey skills.

“We’ve had two boys go through the HCSA program in our community and they have gone on to larger academies. It is great to see those that are motivated get those greater opportunities,” said Beatty.

As a former hockey player himself, Cameron tries his best to relay as much of the information he gained while playing to his students at Miramichi Valley High School in Miramichi, New Brunswick.

“I am just trying to pass along my knowledge of the game through our program,” Cameron says.

The HCSA at Miramichi Valley began in the fall of 2020 and has grown quickly. Originally, it was offered in one semester for Grades 9 and 10 and in the French Immersion program. In 2021, it was offered in French and English in both semesters. Now, there are 24 co-ed students per semester that participate in the program with different levels of ability.

“The smiles don’t leave their faces the entire time they are on the ice,” Cameron says. “Everyone has gotten better at their own pace … they are able to refine their skills and enjoy the game.”

Not only is the HCSA at Miramichi Valley teaching students fundamental hockey skills, but they also get an opportunity to get their officiating and coaching certifications, too.

“There is a true benefit to how it extends well past just hockey,” Cameron says. “It is so good to see the kids improve and work on and off the ice on their skills. The kids don’t always see it [improvement] in the classroom, but you can see the changes they are making and how they are becoming stronger and better week to week.”

The benefit isn’t just about the kids either. Cameron coaches AAA hockey in the community, and being the head instructor, along with a history and physical education teacher, he has noticed how being an HCSA operator has helped him as well.

“It makes me a better coach. All this time and effort put into the program has helped me when I coach my own team,” he says. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to teach these kids the game of hockey and all the fundamentals that come with it, but it is also about the other pieces that they get through the program as well.”

There are many special moments for the students through the HCSA, but one stands out for Cameron. Last fall, the Maritimes hosted the World Junior A Hockey Challenge in Truro, Nova Scotia, and a former HCSA player, Max Jardine, played in the tournament. All the current HCSA students went to the game to watch Jardine play at a high level.

“It showed them what they could achieve if they wanted to,” Cameron says. “It was great for our non-high-level kids to see someone at that level play.”

As the HCSA program continues to grow to over 150 schools in eight provinces, Cameron shares his advice for other operators: “The goal should be to meet the kids where they are, but not leave them there. Kids will get the most enjoyment and confidence from being taught properly and seeing improvement in their own skills over the course of the semester.”

For Beatty, the most value is when the academies build partnerships within the communities to reduce the hurdles smaller schools can face.

“Think beyond your higher skilled hockey players. Those will undoubtedly become more skilled through the additional ice time, but some of the best stories I’ve heard come from the less experienced and new players to the game,” he says. “A part of a successful HCSA is to grow the game by bringing in players that come with an interest in the game. These are students first and hockey players second, but get them in and make them players for life.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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